Joe Earnshaw didn’t realize his friend had taken the picture until later that day when the two were having dinner. The candid photo, taken near Arenal Volcano in northwestern Costa Rica, has become surprisingly meaningful for him, capturing a significant inflection point in his life.

joe vs the volcano“In a way, it was in this moment that I realized that I controlled my path,” he says, “but perhaps more importantly, that I needed to stop obsessing over the end goal and actually enjoy the journey that is life.”

Joe’s journey has been “a bit of a whirlwind,” he says.

A recent graduate of Springboard’s Introduction to Data Science course (and a current Data Science Career Track student), Joe graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015. His first post-college job was at Oracle in the Java Global Unit. That’s where he was initially exposed to concepts like machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Then came his first pivot. He spent an impactful few months in Costa Rica, where he taught English. “It was during this trip I finally began to understand and appreciate the incredible power that continual learning and knowledge could have on one’s life,” Joe says.

He’s currently a CrossFit coach—his second pivot. Through this work, Joe helps his clients transform their lives. “Being able to see people go from having difficulties doing simple activities like getting around the house to getting their first pull-up or finally having the ability to play with their kids (or grandkids) is incredibly awesome,” he says.

He’s also transforming his own life as he moves into the second phase of his Springboard journey, working through the Data Science Career Track.

Health and Data

Joe first was drawn to data science through his love of fitness. He uses a wearable called WHOOP, which tracks a wide range of biomarkers and provides personalized health analytics.

For example, it gives users a “recovery” score based on inputs like how much they slept the previous night or their resting heart rate. “If your body is signaling it is not well-recovered, you might get a recovery score of 30 percent, which tells you that you should probably take it easy that day,” Joe explains.

Thanks to the device and its insights, he says, “I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been.”

The tracker, combined with his experience as a CrossFit coach, got Joe thinking about how technology and health could improve people’s lives.

“When I was researching how to do this, things like data science, machine learning, and even artificial intelligence kept popping up,” Joe says. “Since I knew next to nothing about programming, I decided to enroll in Springboard’s Introduction to Data Science course to see if this would be a good fit.”

It was definitely a good fit.

Why Springboard?

Joe was attracted to Springboard because of the emphasis on mentorship and career coaching. “It wasn’t like other courses where you just worked on the modules/units,” he says. “I felt like there was a support system in place that could help me work on the soft skills that are arguably just as critical to professional success as one’s technical skills.”

Speaking of technical skills, though, Joe says his Introduction to Data Science mentor, Jarus, helped demystify concepts that could have been very difficult to understand. Joe also “emphasized the importance of asking the right questions when it comes to data science,” Joe says. “You can have all the technical skills in the world, but if you aren’t asking the right questions, how’ll you ever get the right answers?”

Joe also took advantage of his student advisor, Molly, scheduling weekly calls to help him stay on track. “Additionally, she taught me a few things along the way in regards to time management and staying organized that have been helpful in progressing through both the intro course and the career track,” he says.

Introduction to Data Science was a challenge, but a fulfilling one. “There were parts in the curriculum that would really click, but then I would reach a point where I was utterly lost,” he says. “It was at these points though where the biggest wins happened and I’d have to say overcoming these obstacles were the most rewarding part of the whole process.”

Overall, he continues, “to go from no programming experience to completing the capstone was awesome.”

For that capstone, Joe turned to his inspiration for enrolling in the course: his fitness tracker. It was providing him with actionable information, but he wanted to go deeper with predictive modeling.

“While the algorithms weren’t nearly as advanced as the ones WHOOP is utilizing, it really showed me how powerful machine learning could be in regards to our health, fitness, and lifestyle,” Joe says. “I believe that there is still so much more we can do with things like data science to positively impact people’s health and lifestyles.”

With the foundation in place from Introduction to Data Science, Joe is about a month into the Data Science Career Track. To launch a data science career, he says, “I knew my skill set would have to keep growing. The career track is helping me to grow past that novice/beginner stage and is definitely exposing me to the depth of information and knowledge required of data scientists today. While the learning will never stop, I know that upon completing Springboard I’ll be prepared to jump into my first job as a data scientist.”

Alum Advice

To anyone else hoping to transition into a new role within data science, Joe has some simple advice: “Just jump in!”

He continues: “Looking back, I spent so much time wondering if this was the right move instead of actually finding out! Plus, there are so many areas that data science covers that you can get paralysis by analysis if you let your mind think too much. Don’t have programming skills? Start by learning Python. Or maybe you have some programming under your belt but need a refresher on statistics? Focus on that to start out with. What I’m finding is that there isn’t really a wrong path, as long as you’re learning and applying those skills through projects.”

Joe’s come a long way since he paused in front of that volcano in 2017 and he’s picked up many lessons along the way. The biggest takeaway? “Roll with the punches,” he says. “Things will get difficult, but that does not mean they’re impossible.”

Joe’s on the path toward a career in data science and you can be too. Get started by enrolling in Springboard’s Introduction to Data Science course. It’s a self-paced, mentor-guided program designed for beginners.